Halloween is upon us. My wife and I will be heading to Whitby to see the Goth Festival. The festival is perfect for the harbour town of Whitby. It is the location where Mary Shelley had Dracula dock in her novel. I mention these events as I also like to watch a few choice horror films at Halloween too.
A recent director that I appreciate is Ben Wheatley. Kill List and especially A Field in England have both been influenced by old school British horror. I examine this more in my previous blog here, this is where I go into the deeper folklore which is why I love this type of genre.
So what is my other goto film? I do like various John Carpenter Films such as The Fog, Halloween and The Thing. These are masterpieces in their own right. Well number one is The Wicker Man. The history of the film is well known. Briefly, the director Robin Hardy had no say in how the film was butchered by the editors when British Lion had the approach of how to distribute it. The result even made its way to Warners in America where it was shown in the shortened version and failed to gain interest. Now this is glossing over the many facets of how and why the film was shown in its cut version for many years on British TV. 40 years went by and thankfully we have the choice of both the Directors Cut and Final Cut. This is due to hard work and research that created a version (the Final Cut) that original director Robin Hardy gave his blessing to. I have seen Jason Blum, from Blumhouse films, say that he uses the soundtrack to The Wickerman when getting in the mood to write. This brings us to why I rate this film as a work of art, defining a genre in its wake.
The Final Cut can be seen as many different film elements rolled into one whole. Music moves and describes the set pieces in a way that I have never seen in a film before. It can be chronicled as a Folk musical psychological horror. My personal judgment would definitely use this striking term as I have no other way of describing it. The music was composed by Paul Giovanni and his band Magnet. They play and sing throughout the film. It introduces the main character when he flies to the far off Summerisle, it introduces the isle, it is used in fertility pieces and even sees Christopher Lee singing as Lord Summerisle. In fact, Christopher Lee stated that it was the film he was most proud to be part of. Although the making of it was hard going, the result was finally worth it.
To conclude, I would recommend The Wickerman. Although it was made in 1973 it really is ahead of its time, the visual and audio treats keep me going back and revisiting to experience the decent through Edward Woodward’s character, Police Sergeant Neil Howie, eyes. It has the feeling of its age which adds to the atmosphere. The Christian/Pagan folklore that is evoked really does bubble up as PS Howie feels he is getting to the bottom of the puzzle when the tables are turned. The end scenes are stunning in their emotion and intensity.
Just as an aside I also recommend the Mark Kermode 40th anniversary documentary.
The affection for The Wickerman permiates as the viewer sees locations, background and interviews. It is available with the Final Cut edition.